Friday, June 17, 2005


The past is not the past anymore - Nothing to see there (or then), move along, move along

Marx was right: all world-historical events do take place twice, the first as tragedy, the second as farce.

Take what lamentably passes for our media today. The press has fallen beyond shamelessness into self-parody. Standards have collapsed, all but vanished. Memory preceded this disappearance of self-respect and honesty.

Take what I heard on the Imus In The Morning radio program this morning. The I-Man was interviewing NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski about the Downing Street Memos. Miklaszewski said two things that I found both extraordinary (or, alas, maybe not so) and outrageous. First, he basically said that it did not matter why we went into Iraq – that that was in the past and what mattered now was the present, that we were there, so we had to stick it out.

Oh really? The past doesn’t matter? Then perhaps you might explain, Mr. Miklaszewski, why a decade ago the press was so self-righteously obsessed about Whitewater? I mean, that happened years before Clinton was elected and had absolutely nothing to do with his official duties. Nobody died (Vince Foster’s suicide was unrelated), and yet the press hounded the Clintons unmercifully.

I suppose they learned their lesson, though, and this means that from now on, no elected official will ever be bothered by anything he did in the past. I must have missed the memo that set out the statute of limitations.

Take note, people: this is how the press is going to start spinning the Downing Street Memos any second now. That it’s utterly irrelevant how we got into Iraq – yeah, the president lied, but that’s not important now. It’s like the Simpsons episode where Homer complains about something until Marge points out that it was his fault, after which he immediately sputters that it doesn’t matter how they got into this mess or who got them into it. What matters is they’re in it.

So Bush got us into this mess for reasons he lied about, but he doesn’t have to pay any political – or legal – price for doing so, and we should all forget about the past, come together as Americans, and clean up the mess that we are not supposed to question how it came about. We should trust Bush to continue leading us even though he – shush! – led us into this disaster in the first place. But that’s in the past, so all is forgiven. Again, I suppose I missed the memo eliminating the past. I must have wasted all those years I spent doing graduate work in history, since we’re not allowed to remember anything anymore.

The second obnoxious thing Miklaszewski said was Bush’s critics are playing politics and are getting hysterical. Huh? Learning that the president lied and being outraged about it – that only counts when you lie about getting a blow-job in the White House, I suppose, not when you lie about a war that has killed over 1700 Americans and countless Iraqis.

To say nothing about Bush’s build up to the war – talk about “hysteria”! Saddam was months away from getting his hands on nukes, the next 9-11 was going to be a mushroom cloud, the threat was imminent. But there I go again, fixating on some nebulous “past” – whatever that means.

The great thing about this disappearing act is, it automatically exempts the press from any self-examination about their own high crimes and journalistic misdemeanors. Having turned Whitewater into a disgraceful exhibition of irrelevant grandstanding, having made themselves White House and Pentagon shills during the run-up to and early months of the debacle in Iraq, they can declare it all a non-event, give themselves a mulligan, and start over fresh. Whee! That was fun!

Like Bush himself, who thinks that announcing a policy is exactly the same as implementing it; like my friend who thinks that once he apologizes for some misdeed, it never happened; the press, by declaring the Downing Street Memos irrelevant because what they purport to describe took place so many many years ago, can bask in its own innocent superiority.

It hasn’t happened yet, and maybe it won’t. Maybe the Downing Street Memos will turn out to be the smoking gun that finally nails Bush and his minions as war criminals. But if he skates, if the press gets bored and distracted the next time some white Southern woman apparently goes missing, this will be the attitude. It happened so long ago and we’re already there and the worst thing we could do we be to just up stakes and run. That we should never have been there at all and that our presence has actually made things worse – what are you, some kind of obsessive antiquarian? Move on, losers!
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